a hole in one

pothole on cycle track

one of our local councillors (we are in the extraordinary position where all three councillors for the kintyre and the islands ward, are all from islay) sends out considerably more press releases than the the two put together. these, which it appears he sends to more than just press outlets, concentrate predominantly on underlining just how much work he appears to be doing on behalf of his constituents. and it appears that, along the way, he may have learned to his benefit.

this is his second term as councillor, the first of which was filled with photographs of himself kneeling adjacent to potholes on the road or next to lamp posts which were clearly deficient in their electrical wiring, or missing entire security panels. more recently, however, while the e-mails have hardly relented, the photos of lamp posts and potholes have gone solo, with no councillor's cheesy grin to be seen. nothing succeeds like persistence, and frequently, nothing did.

however, as far as the island's potholes are concerned, he is right on the money, the recent and current weather conditions having contributed to making almost every road a lot worse than they had already become. as i have pointed out on many an occasion, i scarcely qualify as as a roads engineer and thus have little or no comprehension as to the whys and wherefores of how and why many of those potholes appear in such bizarre locations. but the situation has not been helped by the last twelve months of water pipe upgrades throughout the streets of bowmore village, the repairs to which, only a few months old, are already beginning to disintegrate.

my saturday bike rides at least, are generally carried out aboard a cyclocross bicycle, the tyres and wheels of which seem better prepared to suffer the slings and arrows of disintegrating tarmac. however, on the frequent occasions i am quizzed as to how i cope with so many aberrations under tyre, i am usually quite upbeat. road traffic conditions on islay, particularly at this time of year, are considerably less onerous than in mainland locations, allowing the option of avoiding the majority of the potholes without constraint. motorists, on the other hand, have little option; at normal driving speeds, they'll be on the potholes before they're seen; and with four wheels to my two, it's a great deal harder to practice avoidance procedures.

but, bizarrely enough, and unbeknownst to me until this past weekend, yesterday, 15 january, was 'national pothole day'. quite what is the point of that, i have not a dicky bird, but its existence has prompted those with our best interests at heart, to inform the government that, unless they begin to make immediate amends, the current figure of 21% cyclists who have been involved in an accident as a result of a pothole, is pretty much guaranteed to increase.

however, my island mindset originally had me query the validity of their contentions, given that i have just pointed out how simple a matter it is to avoid any potholes while riding a bicycle. for starters, we're usually travelling a tad slower than our four-wheeled compatriots and, undistracted by dashboard lights, entertainment centres and comments from passengers, we're better poised to circumvent any potential meeting between bicycle tyres and holes in the road. however, logic has since got the better of me, when considering that the mainland road ahead is often severely restricted by passing motor traffic, often making it well nigh impossible to avoid anything directly in a cyclist's path. including, presumably, even pedestrians.

but i believe that maintenance of the majority of inner city and urban roadways is the province of the local council, few of whom, if common lore is to be believed, receive sufficient funding from central government to carry out anything like a comprehensive road maintenance programme. and given the current cost of living crisis, a high frequency of strike action and rising inflation, the chances of that particular situation being remedied anytime soon, is quite probably a forlorn hope.

according to insurance company quotezone, spending on road maintenance has almost halved since the financial crisis just over a decade ago, and the recent cost-of-living crisis has pushed potholes further down the priority list for governments and local councils. even temporary pothole fixes - which involve filling the hole with a form of asphalt treatment - have decreased by almost half in some counties. that said, and despite my admission of a total lack of engineering knowledge, if other councils are anything like argyll & bute, they could possibly ease the financial burden if they were a smidgeon more astute in their ministrations.

shared amongst the various council wards is a roadmaster vehicle, a machine allegedly capable of carrying out on-the-spot, economic pothole repairs. the process ought to consist of removing any water inside the pothole before preparing it to accept what we have frequently referred to as 'aerosol tar', dispensed from a long boom arm protruding from the front of the vehicle. once complete, the filling ought to be pounded into place with what is colloquially termed a 'whacker'. however, we have frequently witnessed the one-man operation being carried out in the middle of nowhere on a sunday morning in the pouring rain. and once the tar has been aerosoled into the pothole, the finishing touch is invariably completed by reversing the truck over the top, before moving onto the next.

almost without exception, those repairs are but irritating piles of gravel within a matter of hours, if not days. thus, the road not only still features potholes, but a coating of gravel all across the surface. though the roadmaster is employed on the basis of being more economical in the short-term, in practice it probably costs more in the long-term, and does little or nothing to rid the roadways of potholes.

as a resident and council tax payer in argyll & bute council, i am perfectly within my rights to both criticise the council for its obvious lack of road maintenance, as is everyone else, relative to their own council masters, and call upon them to make improvements. but it also well-behoves me to be aware that they simply do not have the financial wherewithal to do so. therefore it falls to all of us to contact our msp (north of the border) and mp (on both sides of the border) and exhort both holyrood and westminster to take note. the fact that we are all of the opinion that they will completely ignore our pleas for the foreseeable future, does not remove our responsibility to act responsibly.

but until the national day of flying pigs arrives, watch out for potholes. they'll not be going anywhere anytime soon.

image: shutterstock

monday 16 january 2023

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ready, set, go


though it's not something that has appeared on the horizon for a number of years, when first implemented, i was one of the naysayers concerning the so-called integrated headset, one of many 'innovations' imposed upon the bicycle for reasons, at the time, i failed to comprehend. there was, to a certain extent, an explicable reason for its existence, the details of which i will now bore you rigid, but which can be laid directly at the feet of aluminium.

i still have, sitting in thewashingmachinepost bikeshed, a colnago c40, originally manufactured in the 1990s and which features the late, lamented one-inch headset, a size that was once de rigeur on every kind of bicycle you can imagine. however, when cycle tubes made the move from steel to aluminium, there was a mechanical need for the latter to be of considerably larger diameter due to the need for similar strength. though aluminium is lighter than steel, it is not as strong when formed into tubes of similar diameter; increasing the latter is the sole means of achieving that. but increasing the size of the downtube in particular, meant that the diameter of the head tube had also to be increased to allow an appropriate surface area to which the down tube could be welded.

of course, enlarging the head tube diameter concomitantly meant doing the same for the headset cups. or perhaps that move could be avoided, if the bearings were placed inside the headtube itself, instead of a headset cup inserted into the head tube. which is precisely what happened, eventually trickling down even to steel head tubes which had more or less settled on a 1.125" diameter. the potential downside to this compared unfavourably to the traditional headset; should this system exhibit signs of untoward wear, it was but a simple matter to have it replaced. should the same occur to the bearing cup built-in to the head tube, that would entail replacing the frame. a considerably more expensive state of affairs, and the very reason for my naysaying in the first place.

currently, i have two bicycles which feature integrated headsets; my steel ritchey logic sports a 1.125" headset, while my carbon specialized crux has a tapered head tube which, i believe, is 1/125" at the top and 1.25" at the bottom. though i have yet to come across any tales of woe, where the integral bearing cups have been damaged or worn, i still believe the potential is there. however, when time came, last year, to replace the bearing set on the ritchey, i cannot deny that the ease of so doing was a far cry from the days of inserting a pink chris king headset to the carbon c40.

for those unfamiliar with the process, it involves use of a not entirely inexpensive headset press, ensuring that the cups fit into the head tube perfectly square, and not at odd angles. the bearing set for the ritchey was simply that: an upper cartridge bearing and a lower cartridge bearing. the potential for damage was incurred solely by the lower bearing, which, in this case had all but disintegrated and stuck itself into the lower part of the head tube. hammering it free with a lengthy screwdriver only increased the potential for causing damage - though steel tends to be quite resilient in such circumstances - but thankfully that was avoided.

the stupid part of this story, and therefore, the moral, is that despite realising at the time that i should have been checking the bearings more frequently (particularly considering the inclement weather conditions in which i tend to ride), i managed not to apply the learned lesson to the specialized, despite the latter being about one year older than the ritchey and subjected to considerably more onerous riding conditions (it's a cyclocross bike).

about a week ago, i ordered a set of replacement headset bearings for the specialized, which arrived a few days past, and which i opted to fit on saturday morning. having removed the stem, spacers and headset cover, the top cartridge bearing lifted out easily and appeared to be in fine condition. however, removing the steerer from the head tube demonstrated that the (rusty) inner part of the lower bearing race had detached and affixed itself to the steerer column, leaving the small, very rusty bearings and outer section stuck inside the head tube. given that the frame is carbon, a slip of the screwdriver in this case, could have made a bit of a mess and resulted in my looking through a few websites for a new bicycle.

as matters transpired, more by luck than design, the bearing race popped out without harm to the bike or yours truly, and the new bearings were fitted with ease. i will now ensure that i make regular checks on both bicycles, so that the same does not happen again. to an extent, the situation would have been the same with a regular headset, though the option to replace, had matters culminated in a disaster, is still one i'd prefer.

however, the purpose of this monologue was not to pit the merits of one type of headset against the other; that ship has apparently sailed. but what i would emphasise is that, when you feel your headset to be a tad loose, offering even minor amounts of judder under braking, don't just tighten the stem bolt and carry-on regardless; that just makes matters worse. if you're mechanically adept, drop the steerer out and check the bearings (it's almost always the bottom set that cause the problem). otherwise, take it to your local bike shop and have them check it out. don't ignore or procrastinate, unless you're actually looking for an excuse to acquire a new frame/bike.

sunday 15 january 2023

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squirt lube long lasting and low temperature versions

squirt lube long_lasting

when i were a lad, the only chain lubricant of which i was aware, was the can of three-in-one oil that sat on a shelf in my dad's garden shed. i was under strict instruction to ensure that the chain on my raleigh twenty bicycle received a single drop on each link at least once a week. on a bicycle with a sturmey-archer three-speed hub gear, once a week was possibly quite adequate; just like a fixed gear bike, the chain had only to travel in circles, unlike the chain on derailleur equipped cycles, which also had to shift up and down several sprockets.

though i have nothing that would come close to even a basic comprehension of engineering principles, i'm pretty sure that lateral movement of a bicycle chain induces greater friction than one that doesn't. the considerable subsequent developments made over the intervening years regarding the reduction of friction engendered by a chain on its travels around the nether regions of the average bicycle, have seemingly consigned three-in-one to dad sheds all across the nation.

i have, over the course of many a long year, had the opportunity to use and review several chain lubricants, the majority of which have entered the world of synthetic lubricants, not necessarily derived from oil. and if i might point you once again in the direction of my lack of engineering nous, it's possible that i am ill-equipped to make judgment on such products. however, that could actually be less of a disadvantage than it at first seems. how many of us purchase little bottles of chain lube and subject them to minute investigation over the course of a few weekends' riding? yet, though i can only derive similar observations as others, the difference here is that i'm possibly paying closer attention.


squirt lube sent me two 120ml bottles for review: one containing long-lasting chain lube and the other, their low temperature chain lube. following a thorough chain degreasing, i applied the latter to the campagnolo chain on my ritchey logic, and the former to the sram chain on my specialized crux. both look pretty much identical on the chain and really only differ in packaging via the light blue caps on the low-temperature variant as opposed to the dark blue of the long-lasting version. effectively wax-based lubricants, each drop applied to the chain rollers is in the form of a white liquid which subsequently dries to an almost transparent coating.

squirt lube low temperature

according to squirt, the low temperature version is designed to retain its lubricating properties below zero degrees celcius, something that i have actually had the opportunity to verify, via particularly cool temperatures experienced over the festive period. that period also included lengthy moments of considerable precipitation, a reality that would usually have me relube the chain on a daily basis, the original application having been successfully washed away. it gives me great pleasure to report that both chains still exhibit clear evidence of the original applications.

there is also audible evidence of the latter. after many years of having undertaken rapha's festive 500 in similar, if not worse conditions, in a matter of two days riding in such weather, there was usually notable clattering to be heard from the chain, hence the need to re-lube. both varieties of squirt lube were applied on christmas eve and the chains haven't been touched since, despite my having changed my middle name to gore-tex by deed poll prior to hogmanay. as one ready and willing to suffer for your art, i don't expect to touch either chain until we reach february (unless absolutely necessary), but current indications are that this will not prove to offer an untenable situation.

i have seen it mentioned that the low-temperature edition washes off easily and needs constant re-application, but on current evidence, i'd probably disagree with that. time alone will tell.

the only item mentioned on the squirt website with which i'd take issue, is their contention that the chain remains clean. as a self-confessed 'clean chain' obsessive, this is a point of which i have taken particular note, having to resist the temptation to apply degreaser, not because there is any lack of lubrication, but just to be able to proceed with a shiny chain in public. however, i'm willing to suffer in (relative) silence for a few more weeks at least.

squirt lube low temperature

and on the subject of degreasing, squirt contend that there's no need to degrease the chain prior to repeat use, but i figure i probably will purely for aesthetic reasons. that said, though the chains have acquired a slightly grimey coating, it appears to be one that has no intention of multiplying. both lubes are biodegradeable and free of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (pfas), as well as solvent-free.

wax-based lubes do appear to have gained a reasonable foothold in the cyclists' psyche of late, quite likely with good reason. it is a great deal more expensive than a can of three-in-one oil (around £11.99 for 120ml of each type) but considerably cheaper than several of the available alternatives. i might well offer an update as the weeks roll by, but on present experience, i'd be quite happy to recommend both or either.

squirt cycling products

saturday 14 january 2023

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business as usual


it's a subject we've broached before, particularly when discussing those in charge of the activity most of us love most of all. as a quick reprise, whereas it's highly unlikely that any disinterested individual would start a bike shop or bike touring company, it's not at all unusual to have non-cyclists in the boardroom of some of the world's larger cycle companies, both hardware and softwear.

take rapha, for instance. founded by simon mottram in 2004, he was possibly the last man who could legitimately have said that, when looking for cycle clothing, he couldn't find just what he wanted. hence rapha. simon and i have met on many occasions, and i know him well enough to know that he's as obsessed with road cycling as i am. however, following the purchase of the company by rzc investments, simon stood down as ceo, nominating former allsaints ceo, william kim, as his successor. and though i've no way of knowing, a lack of any listed affiliation with cycling may have contributed to his lasting less than a year in the job before leaving.

subsequently, his replacement consisted to two co-managing directors (me neither). dan blumire worked in a number of large retail companies in the product and commercial world, including river island, new look and topshop. his opposite number, francois convercey, worked across a number of marketing and business leadership roles within the consumer goods industry, having spent twelve years with l'oreal, mars and procter & gamble. it would be invidious of me to criticise on the basis of those biographies; how do i know that both gents hadn't always aspired to head one of the industry's leading lights, possessed of an enthusaism every bit as genuine as yours or mine? and there are mentions of bicycles in both bios, unlike their quickly departed predecessor.

and to be brutally honest, there's every possibility that someone for whom cycling is a seven-days-a-week obsession might not be the ideal choice to run a company the size of rapha. ensuring that it remains profitable and able to expand where necessary takes a serious level of commercial nous and experience, presumably experience that might be gained within the pages of international commerce, whether cycling related or otherwise. and i am not singling out rapha; there are many parallels to be seen in every strand of business life.

but the part of cycling that is all but kept hidden from us, is often the very part that continually allows us to indulge our passion. the three-d printed aluminium frame provided by pinarello to fillipo ganna was only possible because the italian bicycle company, owned by lvmh (also the owner of glenmorangie and ardbeg distilleries), makes enough of a profit to make it happen. and though i may be talking out of turn, those of us who regularly join the sunday morning peloton, are probably not the folks with the major business cojones to curate such financial success.

whether you consider that to be a detrimental aspect of the cycling indistry or not, it's probably not going to change anytime soon. however, there's a high likelihood that those at the top do not speak the same language as do you and i. earlier this week came the announcement that specialized, one of the industry's largest bicycle manufacturers, was dispensing with the services of 8% of their workforce. it's more than likely purely coincidental, but in march last year, specialized founder, mike sinyard, opted to stand down as ceo after almost five decades at the helm, being replaced by former dyson executive, scott maguire (who, incidentally, holds a degree in product design engineering gained at glasgow university).

as we've seen above, the folks at the top are frequently there at the behest of their commercial experience rather than being able to jump the barriers with wout and mathieu, but in achieving that status, it often appears that they may have simultaneously been schooled in alternative language skills. the statement issued by specialized all but confirms this. if we look at any similar situation in the 'real world, reducing the workforce would immediately suggest that things are not proceeding as well as hoped; if business is booming, surely there would be a flurry of situation vacant adverts appearing here, there and everywhere?

however, specialized's take on the situation led them to announce, "Over the last three years, the industry has changed at an incredible pace and shown that cycling is more powerful than ever. It's clear the time has come for transformation and shifts for the future." i might draw your attention to the words, 'cycling is more powerful than ever', which, i'm guessing, does not suggest that now is the time to sack some of your workers. and sounding a bit like an end of season patrick lefevre, scott maguire said, ..."I want to recognize those team-mates who departed and thank them for all of their contributions, hard work and dedication." the inference from that latter phrase would have us believe that said team-mates departed of their own volition, and were not actually handed their p45s just as they clocked in for work this past week.

and i'm a tad unsure as to the precise meaning of, "...We are transforming the company around our purpose to Pedal the Planet Forward. Our priority is to better serve riders, retailers and communities, and to be the best place for our team-mates to innovate and grow." presumably he refers to the team-mates who were not given their marching orders.

and pedal the planet forward? really?

like i said, they may have a whole bikeshed-full of business acumen, but they sure as heck don't speak our language. which is probably why it's called the bicycle business.

friday 13 january 2023

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the medium, not the end game

city streets

i am not a roads engineer, and i'm willing to bet that nor are the majority of you reading these words. so i do not understand how potholes virtually appear overnight in the most obscure places on the road. potholes in areas that receive fairly heavy or regular traffic i fully comprehend, but the majority that have miraculously appeared over the festive holiday on islay's roads are often beyond comprehension. however, i can console myself that, over here at least, it is thankfully far easier for a cyclist to avoid the majority of them, than it is for a motorist.

and it's perhaps also easier for those of us in the saddle to report their whereabouts to our immediate peer group. in a dip between two small ascents that forms a part of not only my saturday route, but the parcours of the sunday ride, a small collection of deep potholes appeared between christmas and new year. these were, even for a cyclist, not all that easy to bypass, but since the majority of my kilometreage over the festive period was carried out aboard a cyclocross bicycle, actually hitting one of the little blighters was far less onerous than would have been the case on a narrow-tyred road bike.

however, having become aware of these holes in the road, it was a simple matter to warn my sunday morning compatriots to take suitable evasive action prior to reaching the designated spot. as reported, they had appeared at the foot of a steep(ish) descent, so avoiding them was a tad harder than usual given the fact that they would be approached at speed. thankfully, the council saw fit to fill them in with what i sincerely hope is a temporary surface, though they didn't hang about long enough to disperse the substantial amount of gravel that now marks their place in the firmament.

reporting traffic details to one another has become common practice over recent months. on behalf of scottish water, mcfadyens contractors, based out of campbeltown on kintyre's southern tip, have been digging up bowmore's roads in order to install new water pipes, and in order to do so safely, there have been mobile road closures involving temporary traffic lights throughout the last year. depending on the location of the latter, the timing between green and red has often obviously not been calculated to favour cyclists as opposed to motorists, and we have regularly had to undertake sprint training to get to the other side before it allows traffic through in the opposite direction.

salient information such as that has often become the lingua franca of the velo club peloton. however, since this is clearly highly localised data, it's not something that you would expect to find on a smartphone app; the market for such would be severely limited. however it's not hard to see that, in more sprawling urban and inner city areas, having access to such data in real time could be of great benefit to cyclists, allowing the option of taking alternative routes to work or home, and avoiding temporary snarl-ups or more permanent diversions. and assuming you are equipped with sensors by way of your bike lights or gps devices (or indeed, any other similar, bike-mounted feature), such data can be centrally collated and dispensed to users of the same devices or apps.

so doing is not a new idea; data enabled devices have been in use for almost a decade, but quite frequently, at a price. however, if the information supplied is of daily use, the the upfront cost could likely pay for itself in a matter of weeks or months, so it's hardly an insurmountable hardship. of course, such data is only as good or as useful as its users make it; the more who are equipped with sensing lights (for example), the bigger sample will be available and therefore, ostensibly more accurate.

but the people who manufacture such sensor equipped devices are not always intent on simply providing you with the services you expected at time of purchase. if there are hundreds, or even thousands of their customers travailing a set of inner city roads, the data generated could also be of great use to the city council, highlighting heavily used routes both by cyclists and those of motor traffic which the former had opted to avoid, based on the data responses provided to their smartphone apps. to all intent and purposes, the internet of things. and having set out to provide cyclists with useful data, the manufacturer(s) soon discover that they now have a substantial quantity of recorded information that roads departments, town planners and transport departments are keen to acquire, which they can now achieve, but at a price.

the slightly concerning factor here, is that their customers, who have often paid a pretty penny for the sensor equipped product, are now providing the manufacturer with a revenue stream for which they are potentially not reimbursed. it would be nice if any help provided through use of the product, inadvertent or otherwise, was reflected in lower prices (and maybe it is and i just don't know), though that's something that would hardly benefit early adopters. one manufacturer has actually been quoted as saying " It's a great thing for our customers, knowing that just by riding their bike with our connected device, they are gathering insights that can really help cities transform for more cycling."

and indeed, from an altruistic point of view, it could allow us to go to sleep every night with a warm feeling of benevolence, were it not for the knowledge that the manufacturer is probably benefiting financially from our purchase, and not just from the profit margin. of course, this situation is not exclusive to the velocipedinal realm; mark zuckerberg is a very rich man via the number of folks that use facebook. the difference in that example, is that facebook is free to use.

i know i have an annoying habit of ending the occasional article with the throwaway phrase 'remember when we just used to go for a bike ride?", but in the days when we did, we were the only ones who benefited, even if it wasn't financially. unfortunately, it seems highly likely that we are currently only at the thin end of the wedge.

thursday 12 january 2023

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predictably unpredictable

foreland road

"the inventor of predictive text has died. his funfair will be hello on sundial."

in order not to create the impression that i harbour a cycling obsession that needs daily attention, i would have you believe instead, that the obsessive part of my nature is more inclined to spend its time ogling drums and cymbals, while admiring the skills of those who play them. after a year or so of carrying on that pretence, even i am now unsure as to who is kidding who. the worst part of investigating either of the above is eventually believing what you see. in desktop publishing parlance: wysiwyg (what you see is what you get).

those who appear in cycling and/or drumming videos must surely be possessed of either unbridled confidence or narcissism, their lives given over to prowess in the saddle or more paradiddles per minute that the boston crusaders. the mistake often made by the innocent onlooker, is in believing that such is the reality in 'real' life. realistically, over the course of a lengthy drumming career, i have never been required to play in 7/8 or 9/8, nor has there arisen the need to play double bass pedal. four drums is more than adequate for me (and buddy rich, come to that) in comparison to those on youtube with seven piece kits and a secondary snare.

though i'd like to think i project appropriate confidence behind the drumset, with an advanced level of technique, the likelihood of yours truly appearing in a youtube video demonstrating same, are akin to my winning the cyclocross worlds in a matter of weeks. similarly, when blogs became vlogs, i remained firmly entrenched in the world of the printed/pixelated word. this is not to pretend that i have approached neither the world of the video review nor that of podcasting, simply that neither proved overtly successful and took a great deal of time to prove that fact.

i cannot deny that i envy those who present themselves in either fashion; if i could i possibly would (actually i wouldn't). the iniquity of either method of presentation is that they often take considerably longer than typing in order to appear more immediate, but in the case of youtube vlogging, i believe the financial rewards can be most equitable, as opposed to the zero pounds and zero pence generated by the post. however, i am still convinced that there are many words in the dictionary that seem little used or understood, and for the past twenty-six years, i have made it my mission to attempt reparations.

however, it seems that all three means of communication (video, spoken word and text) have recently become fixated on a particular theme, one that not only bridges the continents, but finds an enforced set of similarities; some intended, some inescapable. i am, of course, referring to a series of predictions over that which we might see in the coming months, as velocipedinal sporting endeavours move from sand and mud, utlimately to those three weeks in july. and it's interesting to note not only the machinations of the commenters, but the varying responses from industry.

if you pay any attention to developments within the computer industry, you will doubtless be acquainted with the standard response, to wit: "apple/microsoft/meta (delete as applicable) does not comment on unreleased products." in many cases within the bicycle industry, the responses tend to be similar, though if i might retrace steps to the leaked video of cannondale's unreleased machine ridden by richard carapaz, not everyone is quite so secretive. in fact, it may be that several prefer the contradictory approach; deliberately releasing 'top secret' images or videos, while pretending otherwise.

unfortunately, had you known the conclusion to this singular discussion, it might have prevented you from embarking upon this short, yet convoluted journey. for starters, i am insufficiently well informed to be in a position to make any form of prediction whatosever, specifically of a technical nature. quite honestly, not only do i not have the faintest idea as to whether campagnolo might offer a wireless, thirteen-speed, super record groupset in 2023, in truth, i don't actually care. do not mistake my apparent lack of enthusiasm; should such an offering from vicenza actually appear during this calendar year, i will be as fascinated as the next member of the peloton, but until it happens, i'm quite happy to wait.

aside from which, i'm none too sure i even need the twelve sprockets i have, let alone a thirteenth.

of course, it could be that my comprehension of the annual january situation is less well-formed than it ought to be. in the first issue of islay's and jura's local newspaper, each and every january, there are usually four pages given over to a précis of the previous year on the islands. though this occasionally makes for interesting and edifying reading, in truth, it covers over the fact that, as the world and islay awake from the new year holiday, there's not a great deal happening.

therefore, under the pretence of providing educated and knowledgeable predictions for the coming year, bloggers, vloggers and podcasters are attempting to gloss over the fact that there's really not much else available to fill those pixels or mp3 files. but then there's also the possibility that the whole thing is a double-bluff, that those bloggers, vloggers and podcasters do, in fact, know a great deal about what is due in the near future, but are attempting to appear insouciant by having us believe that their outpourings are simply the result of little in the way of tangible news.

either way, in keeping with my desire not to froth over who might potentially win roubaix, flanders or the yellow jersey, i'm more than content to sit back and let stuff happen, safe in the knowledge that somewhere or other, there will be a blogger, vlogger or podcaster poised to tell me all about it.

wednesday 11 january 2023

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but would they?

pashley bicycle

in the 1990s, islay instigated what was known by the acronym beti bus, the first part of which referred to 'better evening transport for islay'. this project involved collating the services of those with mini-bus hire to offer evening transport across islay after 6pm, when the local bus service ended for the day. in order to gauge the efficacy of the proposed service, door to door surveys were carried out in the major island villages, the results of which indicated that the service was likely to be inundated.

as it transpired, while some of the routes were reasonably well-used, one in particular was curtailed after only a matter of weeks due to an almost complete lack of custom. on closer investigation, it turned out that residents in one of the island's villages had proclaimed their intended custom, despite owning a car and more likely to drive if necessary. their affirmative responses were at the behest of those they figured might have need of the service, not wishing to deny its implementation due to overwhelmingly negative feedback.

the moral, gained from an admittedly highly localised and very small sample, is that survey participants often tend to provide the answers they think their interlocutor expects.

according to a report by peter walker in yesterday's guardian newspaper, millions of britains are allegedly 'trapped' in transport poverty (a new one on me) due to a perceived lack of alternatives to car ownership. the government has apparently defined 'transport poverty' as requiring to spend a least ten percent of gross annual income on some means of transport. according to the report from bike is best, the average spend on car transport in the uk is thirteen percent, or, if you happen to be financing or paying a loan for the vehicle, that number increases to 19%.

the bike is best report reputedly goes on to say that approximately 75% of uk drivers think it likely that they will always own a car, the implication being that there is no viable alternative to so doing, to which just under half (47%) are willing to attest. and though i have no grounds on which to doubt the responses of those surveyed, despite many having said they'd be happy to look at substituting a bicycle for shorter trips, that aspiration is immediately qualified by citing the lack of suitable infrastructure to make it happen.

cynic that i am, the latter always reminds me of the motorists who claim to be 'stuck in traffic', seemingly ironically unaware that they are every bit a part of that traffic as all the slow-moving vehicles surrounding them. and also the parents who claim they drive their children to school on the grounds that the traffic makes it unsafe for the kids to walk or cycle. and yet, though the 'i'd cycle if only...' excuse has been trotted out ad finitum for many a long year, the number of remarkably short journeys still undertaken by car has, if anything, increased. and yes, you could point to the unassailable fact that britain's cycling infrastructure is nowhere near what many would like or expect it to be.

however, if we might look laterally at a tangentially related subject, that of the energy crisis and concominant cost of living. there have been many (possibly apocryphal) tales of individuals and families having to make the decision as to whether they eat or heat. and though i have no evidence whatsoever to link the latter to those paying for or owning a motor vehicle, if transport poverty is something that has a biting effect, would this sense of real or imagined poverty not persuade at least some of that 75% to switch to a bicycle no matter what, in order to save money for more pressing expenses?

if i might, for a moment, base my conjecture on that which i see all around me, traffic conditions on islay are considerably less than onerous by comparison to many mainland locations. travelling by bicycle around the principality is considerably easier than any i've experienced in edinburgh, glasgow or london. yet, if you're willing to be bored once again, i will reiterate that bowmore village is nominally one mile from one end to the other. and despite one mile being a distance surely achievable by the majority of the village's population, there are still those who drive less than 500 metres for shopping or work. a similar situation exists, i am reliably informed, across the island's other villages.

of course, i have no way of knowing whether those of whom i speak, are anywhere near transport poverty, but there's no doubt that the opportunity to walk or cycle is staring everyone in the face, yet very few have grasped the opportunity to do so. but were council or government largesse to be extended to the island to allow the construction of whatever passes as an equitable cycling infrastructure, i have every faith that there would be no visible increase in the number of folks adopting the bicycle as an alternative to the motor car. and it is perhaps worth mentioning that islay's bus services remains rudimentary to say the least, with still no service after 6pm, nor on sundays.

i'm sure that the populations of hebridean islands are, by definition, somewhat different to many of those living in britainshire, but i'd imagine that, overall, human behaviour tends towards similarity across the board. and on that basis alone, i hold little faith that, were a network of superbly constructed and maintained cycle paths to appear overnight, those who claimed they'd switch to the bicycle, would not be left floundering for alternative excuses to allow them to remain in their cars.

of course, it wouldn't be a transport dilemma without introducing the elephant in the room: the e-bike. arguments against this being a suitable palliative apparently revolve around the expense (really?) and the fact that finance deals are hard to find. and in a related part of the survey, bike is best reported that around 17% claim that, though willing to adopt two wheels and a saddle, they cannot afford to purchase a bicycle. what is not clear, is whether any of those 17% are the very folks who claim to have no alternative to car ownership. a quick look at the evans cycles website shows that they have a muddy fox hybrid bike available for less than £200 and electric bikes available for less than £1,000; considerably less than the price of any motor car of which i'm aware.

rather optimistically, in my decidedly cynical opinion, cycling uk's keir gallagher is on record as having said, "The solution is simple - building networks of safe, segregated cycle networks in towns and cities across the UK, would turn cycling into a genuine option for millions of people." (the highlighting is mine). however, with a bit of luck, i'll be proved wrong once again, though just like those who profess to be ready, able and willing to adopt the bicycle as a mode of transport, we'll probably never find out.

image: pashley

tuesday 10 january 2023

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................